There is no such thing as a typical contact arrangement
The Court of Appeal, which is the second highest court in England and Wales, has rejected a father’s bid to overturn a ruling that he cannot text his 12 year-old daughter. The father (F) has a very acrimonious relationship with the child’s mother (M). At an earlier hearing by the Family Division of the High Court, the Court ruled that F can see his daughter twice a month. However F is prohibited from texting his daughter between visits.
The Judge felt that if he were to allow F to send text message communication to his daughter this would “simply cause more anxiety” given the troubled relationship between F and M. The Judge also made it clear that “previous generations had not expected to be in communication with their parents every day” and that daily texts from F to his daughter could cause M to worry that her whereabouts were being tracked by F.
During F’s appeal he stated that “Mrs Justice Parker said the [previous text] messages were too affectionate but I cannot see how a father can be too affectionate to his daughter, just by saying he loves her. Twice a month is just not enough.” F’s application to the Court included a letter from his daughter to the Court which read ” I love my dad very much and I really want to be able to text him. Sometimes I miss my dad a lot and I want to keep in touch. The other Judge would not allow me to text him and I am hoping that you will.”
However the Court of Appeal dismissed F’s application and came down in favour of the original trial judge. The Court of Appeal felt that given the lengthy history of “dispute and counter dispute” between F and M, the earlier judge had been obliged to take that into consideration. The Court also recognised that the daughter would naturally want a relationship with both her parents and this was already being facilitated by contact with F twice a month.
What this case shows is there is no typical contact arrangement and if the Court is asked to decide what the arrangement should be, the Court will take account of a number of welfare factors and will make an Order that the Court deems to be in the best interests of the child. It is a reminder that for separated parents, a better outcome would be for court proceedings to be avoided and for the parents to try and reach arrangement terms that are mutually acceptable to both parties.
At Barker Gotelee we are able to offer any separated parent a free initial consultation with one of our experienced family solicitors in order to discuss your situation and the best options available to you. To book an appointment please contact us on 01473 611 211.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.